The idea of peace and security reminded me of someone who didn't have those feelings all the time.
"Oh, Jasper?" I asked as we turned for the door.
Jasper was sandwiched tight in between Alice and Esme, somehow seeming more central to the family picture than usual. "Yes, Bella?"
Tm curious - why is J. Jenks scared stiff by just the sound of your name?"
Jasper chuckled."It's just been my experience that some kinds of working relationships are better motivated by fear than by monetary gain."
I frowned, promising myself that I would take over that working relationship from now on and spare J the heart attack that was surely on the way.
We were kissed and hugged and wished a good night to our family. The only off note was Nahuel again, who looked intently after us, as if he wished he could follow.
Once we were across the river, we walked barely faster than human speed, in no hurry, holding hands. I was sick of being under a deadline, and I just wanted to take my time. Edward must have felt the same.
"I have to say, I'm thoroughly impressed with Jacob right now," Edward told me.
"Thewolves make quite an impact, don't they?"
"That's not what I mean. Not once today did he think about the fact that, according to Nahuel,Nessie will befully matured in just six and a half years."
I considered that for a minute. "He doesn't see her that way. He's not in a hurry for her to grow up.He just wants her to be happy."
"I know. Like I said, impressive. It goes against the grain to say so, but she could do worse."
I frowned. "I'm not going to think about that for approximately six and a half more years."
Edward laughed and then sighed. "Of course, itlooks like he'll have some competition to worry about when the time comes."
My frown deepened. "I noticed. I'm grateful to Nahuel for today, but all the staring was a little weird. I don't care if she is the only half-vampire he's not related to."
"Oh, he wasn't staring at her - he was staring at you."
That's what it had seemed like... but that didn't make any sense. "Why would he do that?"
"Because you're alive," he said quietly.
"You lost me."
"All his life," he explained," - and he's fifty years older than I am - "
"Decrepit," I interjected.
Heignored me. "He's always thought of himself as an evil creation, a murderer by nature. His sistersall killed their mothers as well, but they thought nothing of it. Joham raised them to think of the humans as animals, while they were gods. But Nahuel was taught by Huilen, and Huilen loved her sister more than anyone else. It shaped his whole perspective. And, in some ways, he truly hated himself."
"That'sso sad,"I murmured.
"And then he saw the three of us - and realized for the first time that just because he ishalf immortal, it doesn't mean he is inherently evil. He looks at me and sees... what his father should have been."
"You are fairly ideal in every way," I agreed.
He snorted and then was serious again. "He looks at you and sees the life his mother should have had."
"Poor Nahuel," Imurmured, and then sighed because I knew I would never be able to think badly of him after this, no matter how uncomfortable his stare made me.
"Don't be sad for him. He's happy now. Today, he's finally begun to forgive himself."
I smiled for Nahuel's happiness and then thought that today belonged to happiness. Though Irina's sacrifice wasa dark shadow against the white light, keeping the moment from perfection, the joy was impossible to deny. The life I'd fought for was safe again. My family was reunited. My daughter had a beautiful future stretching out endlessly in front of her. Tomorrow I would go see my father; he would see that the fear in my eyes had been replaced with joy, and he would be happy, too. Suddenly, I was sure that I wouldn't find him there alone. I hadn't been as observant as I might have been in the last few weeks, but in this moment it was like I'd known all along. Sue would be with Charlie - thewerewolves' mom with the vampire's dad - and he wouldn't be alone anymore. I smiled widely at this new insight.
But most significant in this tidal wave of happiness was the surest fact ofall: I was with Edward. Forever.
Not that I'd want to repeat the last several weeks, but I had to admit they'd made me appreciate what I had more than ever.
The cottage was a place of perfect peace in the silver-blue night. We carried Nessie to her bed and gently tucked her in. She smiled as she slept.
I took Aro's gift from around my neck and tossed it lightly into the corner of her room. She could play with it if she wished; she liked sparkly things.
Edward and I walked slowly to our room, swinging our arms between us.
"A night for celebrations," he murmured, and he put his hand under my chin to lift my lips to his.
"Wait," I hesitated, pulling away.
He looked at me in confusion. As a general rule, I didn't pull away. Okay, it was more than a general rule. This was a first.
"I want to try something," I informed him, smiling slightly at his bewildered expression.
I put my hands on both sides of his face and closed my eyes in concentration.
I hadn't done very well with this when Zafrina had tried to teach me before, but I knew my shield better now. I understood the part that fought against separation from me, the automatic instinct to preserve self aboveall else.
Itstill wasn't anywhere near as easy as shielding other people along with myself. I felt the elastic recoil again as my shield fought to protect me. I had to strain to push it entirely away from me; it took all of my focus.
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